Edit in sitelab

How to recognise and treat kissing spine

ArticleHow To - HealthFriday 11 November 2011
By Lisa

Kissing spine is a serious problem for horses that can cause the animals plenty of discomfort when out riding or when chilling in the stables. There are a number of symptoms of kissing spine, which everyone should be aware of and if you follow this guide closely then you should be able to make an educated diagnosis. However, even if you are unsure about the condition of your horse we recommend that you speak to a vet and get a professional opinion. 

For more information about back pain in horses, click here

One of the main symptoms of kissing spine is an increasing sign of back pain in your horse. For example, the animal may become irritated and abnormally sensitive during saddling and girthing up, or when mounting. It is, however, worth remembering that some horses simply dislike being saddled, which means that you will need to be aware of the difference between the two. If the horse does have kissing spine, and the condition has become quite severe, then the horse may rear, buck or bolt. 
If your horse does have kissing spine then it will have an increasing tendency to refuse to attempt jumps that were previously not an issue. Or, the horse may decrease in its ability to move in an athletic manner. Some horses, who suffer from kissing spine, will start to show a rather clumsy or uncoordinated way of moving when viewing them from behind. Stiffness is also an issue associated with kissing spine. This may gradually show and then become worse and worse. 
Kissing spine is usually caused from repeated trauma, which can be caused by a badly fitted saddle or a heavy rider that is sitting incorrectly. Also, if your horse suffers a severe fall causing it to go over backwards, then the animal could injure itself quite badly, which could cause it to suffer from kissing spine in the future. 
Take it to the vet
The vet will usually take a look at the horse being ridden both under the saddle and on the lunge, if they suspect it could be suffering from kissing spine. Then, if the vet is still unsure, they will tend to arrange an x-ray, which will be fairly easy to obtain, what with the spine being close to the surface of the animal’s back. 
The interpretation of the x-rays must be done with caution since many horses have some degree of changes to the spinal/vertebrae area without actually having kissing spine. The vet will usually complete a nerve block test, which will also help to confirm a diagnosis. 
Treating kissing spine
Once the horse is diagnosed and it is confirmed that it is suffering from kissing spine the treatment can begin. In the early stages a period of rest will give relief, but the problem often returns when the horse is being ridden again. A course of physiotherapy is then often tried to help solve the issue. 
If all else fails then surgery is an option where the bony spurs are removed and the overall success is generally good so long as a good rehabilitation programme is followed.
Kissing spine often affects top performance horses who, after treatment, generally make good horses for the less competitive rider who just wants a good all-rounder or a happy hacker.


Subscribe to our FREE newsletter